Espinoza set for Wigan medical ahead of free transfer

Photo by ISIPhotos.com

By IVES GALARCEP

Sporting Kansas City midfielder Roger Espinoza has long been linked to a move to English Premier League side Wigan since turning heads at the Olympics, but now it appears he is ready to seal the deal and head over on a free transfer.

Honduran media outlet Diez was the first to report that Espinoza is on his way to England to undergo physicals on Wednesday ahead of a transfer move that would see his five-year MLS career come to an end. Espinoza’s agent, Mike Gartlan, confirmed the validity of the report to SBI on Monday evening.

It has long been known that Espinoza was leaving Sporting KC at the end of the 2012 season after failing to reach an agreement on a new contract, and now it appears that the first team to express serious interest is set to become the team that signs him.

Espinoza, 26, turned heads at last summer’s Olympic games with his outstanding play during Honduras’ impressive run to the Olympic quarterfinals.

A first-round pick in the 2008 MLS Draft, Espinoza transformed himself from finesse midfielder in college to a tenacious box-to-box midfielder, perfectly-suited for the fast pace of the English Premier League. He joins a Wigan side that currently includes Honduras teammate Maynor Figueroa.

What do you think of this development? Sad to see Espinoza leave MLS, or more excited to see what he can do in the English Premier League?

Share your thoughts below.

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48 Responses to Espinoza set for Wigan medical ahead of free transfer

  1. Heft says:

    Honduras has produced a fine group of players.

    • Supsam says:

      In Espinoza’s case, it wasn’t Honduras that was responsible. It was the college game and MLS that made Espinoza the player he is now.

      • Turd Bradley says:

        College game helped? you mean the same college game that only has a 3 month season and has rules on how future pros that are competing globally for professional contracts can only train X amount of hours a week. Or the college game that is littered with awful coaching and training.

        Or is the sub rules that make most games more of a street fight than actual soccer?

        Sure it was the college game. I am sure his youth club coaches would totally agree with you.

        • Seriously? says:

          Yeah, everybody knows that college soccer has never helped one player ever, it’s completely impossible. College only hurts players, and if Espinoza hadn’t gone to college, rather than just signing for a low to mid level Premier League team, people would no doubt be comparing him favorably with Messi and Ronaldo.
          (Doesn’t it stink when things happen which seem to clash with your predefined narrative on how the world works? The only option is to tell everybody to ignore it, as it can’t be true.)

          • T-lover says:

            I hope you was just making a joke, Espinoza and Messi would never go together, college soccer is getting better and better just need more games.

        • Vic says:

          You forgot the spring season with the practices is another 2-3 months. Also the traveling to other countries and playing in the winter. Many of the good players also compete in the PDL that runs from May 15-July15. Put those all together you have about 10 months of play.

          • slowleftarm says:

            While I think some of ths above comments are a little over the top, college soccer generally is a wasteland and stunts development. Hopefully college soccer becomes more like college tennis, a place for student athletes to play a sport they love. Meanwhile, the elite players go pro at an early age.

        • Supsam says:

          if Espinoza didn’t go to a college team and decided to go to some no name PDL team, what are the chances that KC drafts him? hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

    • elgringorico says:

      And in Andy Najar’s case, it was the United youth academy.

    • The Imperative Voice says:

      He moved here at 12, he’s our product. Roughly the time he turned pro he secured citizenship here so he’s playing for Honduras by choice a la Najar.

      In terms of the college discussion, I wonder if the people arguing college’s insufficiency played it. We do have a 3 month fall season but also a 2 month spring one with 5 games, during which we could play minor league teams and stuff like that. There is the PDL for talented and/or connected players, as well as men’s leagues you can join in the offseason….I’d go play indoor or outdoor in my offseasons, and if people know you’re playing college you’re in demand. And my club team would play in a U23 league that included a Hermann Award winner who later played in MLS for several years.

      Also, let’s be real, this is no longer the 80s, the creme of the crop is already pro-signed at 17 or 18 like Jozy. At which point the question is how are we developing the more marginal players. In theory it would be nice to have the Academies take the lead but a look down that U17 roster suggests they’re only filling half-ish of the team. So clubs and colleges have to take up the slack, and in the case of college, they have to handle the scheduling in a way that balances academics. Because all due respect but I wonder if the people criticizing college soccer did the road trips while trying to stay on top of classwork. My fall semesters were always my worst. Soccer takes your time, tires you out a little, and when you’re on the road it’s easy to treat it like a vacation as opposed to study time. I tend to agree that the demands of higher learning make it harder to create pure soccer players but IMO it’s the Academies that need to step up into that void — and not just by parasitizing at the high age groups, but by becoming more of aquality developmental pipeline from U-10 upward (some of the local clubs here are as good as the Academies or better) — and then college can become more of a route for those who want to balance with career, or who need some work.

      • Aps says:

        I hope ur not one of those claiming Guiseppe Rossi as urs seeing as he also moved to Italy at age 13 so he’s their product.

  2. Alexandria says:

    I think its a great move for him he has gotten better each year and has earned this move. I give him props for not complaining about the length of his contract and the offer KC made to him. Too many MLS youngsters complain so much its refreshing to not hear a peep.

    • David JS says:

      +1. Nice to see a guy give it a proper go in MLS, have great success, and move on with all parties involved seemingly satisfied. No transfer demands after 10 good games, no MLS holding him hostage after he signs an extension, etc.

    • ed - houston says:

      yeah and there is really no amount of money that will keep him in KC –similar to geoff cameron — he just wants to play in a top league. can’t blame him-them.

  3. Johnny Teninch says:

    Give it hell, kid.

  4. Jo says:

    A bit greasy that KC developed him into the player he is today and he didn’t secure them some sort of transfer fee. Instead he says ‘thanks very much’ and walks away on a free.. I would be bitter if I was a KC fan.

    • Ralph says:

      You sound just like Dan Gilbert. This a business he is doing what’s best for him. That doesn’t mean he will be successful he has to go fight for a spot n prove he is worthy. This falls on the shoulders of the sporting general manager for not offering him a longer contact sooner so they could make a buck out of him.

      • Old School says:

        I’m sorry, he doesn’t sound a thing like Dan Gilbert and that’s a horrible comparison between the two sports.

    • Josh D says:

      Just as the league and teams owe players for paying them crap for years, tied to long contracts? Nope. Good on him and Holden. You do your time then leave. They set a price and years contracted. He obliged.

    • Josh says:

      As a SKC fan, I have no problem with it. He stayed til the end of the season unlike Marco Pappa and he played his heart out for KC. Sure it would be nice to get some $ for him, but ownership seems more concerned with pleasing fans than profit margins so it’s hard to complain

      • Eric says:

        Also an SKC fan. Agree with what Josh said, 100%.

      • Weston John says:

        It sure does seem like SKC chose between a transfer fee versus making a 1-time run for the MLS Cup with Espinoza. They chose to keep Espinoza for the MLS Cup run (while offering him a new contract) versus cashing out after the Olympics. It’s unfortunate that keeping Espinoza for the playoffs didn’t yield dividends, but I do respect the decision. Perhaps the transfer fees offered were low because the EPL teams knew he would not sign a new contract with SKC and would be free to sign in November.

    • Gnarls says:

      Those are the league rules. And, if I’m not mistaken, it’s the same throughout the world when a player is out of contract.

    • The Imperative Voice says:

      Personally I think it’s a little slimey to sign a nominal 4 year deal and then your team sells you year two with a mutual wink.

      Plus, at least some players would probably prefer the “free” route where they can control their destination as opposed to a transfer which may be dictated by who offers the best fee to MLS. I felt like Landon should have gone to Everton on a free but once you sign the MLS deal the situation is more complicated.

    • Papi Grande says:

      there is NOTHING greasy about this…this is a BUSINESS…if KC wanted something out of this, they should have increased his salary and extended the years of his contract…they did NEITHER…so as everywhere else in the world of PROFESSIONAL SOCCER (read: BUSINESS), he walks on a free transfer…with NOTHING guaranteed to him moving forward.

      • beto says:

        in deed, just the way it is.. i also get the feeling like MLS clubs don’t really value transfer dollars like the rest of the world does. Unless its Jozy Altidore or Landon Donovan where they get a news headline of “$10,000,000 deal!” they see the fee as a bonus. Probably because the league keeps quite a bit or because its not part of their business model, unlike clubs in other leagues where they live and die off buying low and selling high.

      • The Imperative Voice says:

        It’s also worth saying that if you look at someone like Landon, or even the experience with negotiation with Stoke over Cameron, a lot of the lesser EPL sides want their MLS players cheap, and if you try and orchestrate a sign-then-transfer kind of deal, the EPL team may either walk (Everton) or negotiate hard until the last possible days (Stoke), if you insist on a meaningful fee. People don’t realize half the appeal of an American to the EPL is they are supposed to be quality players at a cheaper price than they can get from England itself. If the margin shrinks then the added work permit tribulations make you less valuable.

  5. Mike in Missouri says:

    Thanks Roger for your time in KC. Go kick butt for one of the best managers in England.

  6. skc fan says:

    Excited to see how Rodger does in the Premier League, but would have loved to keep him in KC.

  7. Tyler Kitchens says:

    I like Roger a lot, I think I’ll like him even better now that he’s not playing for SKC… But I’m glad to see him getting an opportunity to test himself at the highest level.

  8. Good Jeremy says:

    Knock them out bud. Congrats on coming so far, and good luck on your next gig.

  9. bendover says:

    Roger is a class act. Played his heart out for SKC and was a fan favorite. I don’t know anybody in KC that would be bitter about him leaving because he should get a chance to play in the EPL. Good luck Roger, we wish you the best.

  10. alabamafutbol says:

    Will be fun to watch the Honduran duo of Roger and Honduras’ most solid player, Maynor Figueroa reunited at Wigan. Good stuff, wish him luck

  11. biff says:

    I have a lot of respect for Wigan and coach Roberto Martinez and hope that Roger Espinoza does well with the team.

    What I do not understand, from a purely financial perspective, is why Sporting Kansas City and MLS with a player who was under no circumstances going to sign a contract extension did not cash in either last August or last January and collect a mult-million transfer fee for Espinoza. Does not make business sense. Yes, SKC had Espinoza on the field for a few more games in September and October, but was that really worth the money lost from a transfer fee that could be reinvested in new players, etc.? I don’t see it.

    In any case, I see now that Espinoza grew up in Denver and is a US citizen. How did he slip through the USMNT?

    • GW says:

      biff,

      Espinoza signed for MLS in 2008. After his rookie season in early 2009 he was capped by Honduras.

      That was right around the time the US was building up to the Confederations Cup.

      In terms of midfielders who would have been, more or less, in competition with Roger at that point, there was, JFT, Benny, Rico, Edu, Adu, Sacha, the manager’s boy, Dempsey, Donovan, and Holden.

      At that point I seriously doubt anyone knew that, down the road, Holden would suffer career threatening injuries, that JFT, Benny, Rico, Edu, Adu, and Sacha would turn out to be something less than was hoped for and that Donovan would suffer injuries and burn out.

      And if they say they did I’ll bet their eyes are brown. In fact, I remember most people at the time being excited about the depth and the potential of that group. Who knew?

      In 2009, I doubt anyone, even you, knew Roger would turn out to be as good as he is.
      I don’t think you can cap everyone, just in case. I think he will do well in the BPL.
      As Ives wrote in his FOX column, Roger wanted to play for the US but Honduras called first. It was probably the best thing for him. He was more likely to play regularly with Honduras thus giving him a quicker, more assured path to a long term international career. Besides, Honduras, then and now, were/are a pretty good team. They, and Roger, made the 2010 WC (thanks in part to Jonny Bornstein) and are a good bet to make the 2014 WC.

      It looks like Roger made the right call.

      Does this mean Roger’s path, through college, various semi pro teams, Generation Adidas, MLS, then finally BPL, is the right one? Is the path Jay Demerit took the right one? Probably not for everyone.

      I would say both guys were exceptions to the rule. But they made it work. And of course you should remember that Roger and Jay are both exceptional people.

  12. Keith G. says:

    It is always sad to see good talent leave the league but best of luck to him. Hopefully for every pkayer we loose to Europe we will gain a player from Europe.

  13. BriaK says:

    It is sad that NYRB would pay Rafael Marquez millions to flounce around but they don’t have the vision to open up the wallet and pay KC a fee and Espinoza what he wants,….

    • Kevin says:

      Not to bust your bubble, but had Roger stayed in the MLS it would have been with Sporting. Sporting made him an offer to stay and I am sure it was a good offer. However having a chance to go play in the EPL is just too good to pass up.

    • Vic says:

      Red Bull is a business. Marquez is advertised on all Red Bull drinks in Mexico. He also draws Mexican fans to games(who are 2/3rds Hispanic population). A business is in business to make a profit.

  14. ec says:

    Great player, great story for soccer in the US that a guy can go college -> MLS draft -> MLS star -> EPL. Only bummer is that KC couldn’t get a transfer fee for him to reinvest into the team.

  15. Kevin says:

    Roger was a great player for KC. He always gave 100% when he was on the field. Even taking red cards, he was giving 100% he just had to learn the legal way to play his style. There will be a learning curve in the EPL, but I am sure he will pick it up and become a real good player for Wigan. I am very happy for him and wish him all the best, I know I will rout for him still.

    On another note, is there another team better in developing young talent out of college? Just look at the players they have drafted that have really raised their game while they are here; Myers, Besler, Zusi and Espinoza. If I am some of the younger players on the roster I have to be excited to see what is happening to players who have put in the years. Then look at some of the players they have brought in with Collin, Kamara, Nielsen and Sinovic where they have seen the best years of their career. I could not be happier with the player development that is being done in KC.

    • biff says:

      Well, Kevin, I hope SKC lightens up and allows Zusi and Besler to make moves to Europe before the end of their contracts, assuming that a satisfactory transfer fee is offered. The only logical reason that I can see for not cashing in on someone like Espinoza is to send a message to other players (such as Zusi and/or Besler) who might be thinking about jumping for a move to Europe that we (the team) will stand firm and not give in to transfer requests so you better sign the contract extension or risk being injured before you can go on a free transfer.

      • GW says:

        SKC is a business.

        Facilitating the development of players for the USMNT is not, and should not be , their first priority.

        And besides, transfers to Europe are not entirely at their discretion.

    • GW says:

      Kevin,

      I am not as familiar with KC as you seem to be.

      How would you compare Espinosa to Zusi? Was one better than the other or were their roles so different. Did they complement each other? Which one was Batman and which one was Robin?

      Do you think Zusi is as good a player?

      Thanks

  16. 5280 says:

    I was never sold on Espinoza. He was perhaps the league’s most flagrant flopper, so it makes sense he’s finding a new home in the EPL. Beyond that, I suppose he hustled quite a bit and was pretty fast with the ball, but I’m a bit flummoxed at why he’s making it to the EPL ahead of so many other players who could be considered. I didn’t see his Olympic performance that earned him so many plaudits, but it’s hard to imagine him being anything other than a bit player, even for Wigan.

    • Josh says:

      Flopper? 47 fouls committed. 46 fouls suffered. Everybody flops here and there but “most flagrant flopper” might be the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard in a league with the number of prima donnas in the league.

      As for the EPL move, you have to realize English fans never get to/care to watch MLS players. He made the best of his time there and hopefully opened some eyes to MLS.

      As for Wigan, almost nobody starts on a big club. 90% of players don’t come up in the ManU/Barca/big club academies. Those teams are made up of people they bought from other European teams. So almost everybody starts on a smaller team, who knows down the line.

  17. beto says:

    good for Espinoza, i think Roberto Martinez has something for Hondurans…

    Zusi has to be next, I would be surprised if we hear some EPL or Bundesliga transfer bids next summer. SKC is going to have to reload their midfield!